Partisan gridlock continues over Russia sanctions

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to show unwavering support for an independent Ukraine and “condemn” Russian military aggression toward its neighbor, but declined to pass sanctions amid partisan gridlock.

Action in the Senate came after President Joe Biden said the U.S. has “every indication” of a potential Russian attack on Ukraine in a matter of days. U.S. officials have outlined stark scenarios of President Vladimir Putin’s potential plans as Russian troops remain massed at the Ukraine border.

The resolution from the senators does not carry the force of law but puts the U.S. legislative body on record with “unwavering United States support for a secure, democratic and independent Ukraine” and “denounces the Russian military buildup” on Ukraine’s border. The vote was unanimous, without objection or the formal roll call.

“This Congress is united in its support of Ukrainian independence and sovereignty,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in introducing the measure with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and others.

The resolution Thursday encourages Biden to have the U.S. government exhaust its tools available to impose “significant costs” on Russia and “restore peace in Europe.”

The final text said the resolution was not to be construed as an authorization for the use of military force against Russia or for the introduction of U.S. armed forces in Ukraine.

Despite widespread backing from the senators for legislation that would sanction Russia over its behavior toward Ukraine, they have had debates over the details and timing.

Senators had been racing all week to mount a response to rising tensions in the region, many eager to go even further by imposing devastating sanctions on Putin that would send shockwaves through the Russian economy.

Democratic Sen.  Bob Menendez coined the term “mother of all sanctions” last year to describe the proposed sanctions that would impact Russian banks, debt and the economy. The sticking point for senators has remained the same throughout the debate: Does the U.S. hit Russia with sanctions now to deter them from invading or do they wait until Russia acts and use it as a punitive measure?

There have also been differences over the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline between Russia and Germany, although those may have become resolved after Biden said last week the energy line would not continue if Russia invades Ukraine.

Sen. Tim Kaine told NewsNation’s Joe Khalil that he wished the Senate would pass a sanctions bill but he had no doubt that Putin knows the potential impact of sanctions.

Throughout the crisis, Ukraine’s leaders have sought to project calm — repeatedly playing down the threat of an invasion.

“They’re watching so close. They know what the holdup has been on the sanctions legislation. He knows the sanctions will get passed and will hit him very hard should he invade,” Kaine said on “Morning in America.” “I would rather we had reached an agreement. But I don’t think Putin or the Russians are in any doubt about what’s going to happen, should they invade.”

But the partisan gridlock, even with bills to avert a government shutdown, is hampering the United States on the national security front.

“Government shutdown would be useless, senseless. Imagine that look to the Russians and say the rest of the world including Russia, most powerful nation on earth can stay open,” Sen. Pat Leahy said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The Senate passed a bill to avert the shutdown Thursday. Biden is set to sign the bill Friday.

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